Edinburgh Fringe Preview: Armada The Musical
In the second of my Edinburgh Fringe preview articles, I speak to Rob Winlow, director at Old Hall Theatre Company, about Armada The Musical, a show that started life in York and is now on its way to the Fringe. As well as being director and actor in the production, Rob has also written some songs for Armada that were selected as part of Sir Terry Wogan's Golden Oldie competition on BBC Radio 2 last year.
So Rob, tell me about Old Hall Theatre Company
Old Hall Theatre Company was set up purely to bring Armada to this year's Fringe. It is very much a team effort. It consists of a cast of eight mucking in with production decisions and duties, a technician and a marketing manager. The small but beautiful approach means that there are not endless discussions and it is easier to muster a sense of team spirit and pulling together.
You’re a York based company, are all your cast and crew from York?
The team are mostly York based with a couple of us out of the area. We have an optician from Goole and driving instructor from Hull. The ages range from 16 to 49 with an average age of 26. Most of us are past or present members of York Musical Theatre Company which is a local amateur group who perform at York Theatre Royal.
How did you get involved with the project? Were you part of the original production?
As writer I have been involved with Armada from its inception in 2008. A rehearsed workshop followed an informal read through and this in turn gave rise to the first full production at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York in 2011. I will be recreating the role of Dr John Dee at the Fringe.
The Spanish Armada is an unusual concept for a musical. How did this come about?
Because it is an unusual concept you can almost guarantee it will be original and no one will be directly competing with you. It must be heartbreaking to go to all the effort of writing a show to discover someone else is doing the same, but better, which is what happened to Maury Yesten's Phantom of the Opera when Andrew Llloyd Webber turned up on Broadway ...
What is the show aboout exactly?
The show covers the relationships between the main characters, Queen Elizabeth, King Philip of Spain, Dr Dee and Sir Francis Drake. The story of the invasion of the Spanish Armada is perfectly covered without the need for firing cannon from huge galleons but there is also the possibility to include such impressive staging should it be sufficiently financed. The possibilities on this project are endless!
Why have you decided to take Armada to the Fringe?
It is a wonderful opportunity to take Armada to a wider audience at the Fringe. The show is open to license to other societies or production companies.
How are rehearsals going so far? What has been the most enjoyable part of the process?
Rehearsals are going well, despite working around summer holidays. They become difficult when cast members can't say their lines for giggling over misreading of lines!
How has the original production changed for the Edinburgh Fringe run?
We have replaced a cast of 25 with just 8 people so we need to be confident with our acting and singing and there are some big chorus numbers. The run time has been reduced from two acts over 3 hours, with a 20 minute interval to a one act, 1 hour 20 minutes show, but still manage to tell the story without a comedy subplot.
How have you found the process of putting on a show for the Edinburgh Fringe, and how does it differ to putting on a show at a local theatre?
We're finding it a very disciplined process because the nature of taking the show to the Edinburgh means that we have opportunities to convey the story with minimal props and staging. So it is ingenuity rather than resources that we have to rely on. Obviously everything is scaled down to the bare minimum, simply to give you the shortest get in and get out time.
What do you hope the show and the cast will get out of the experience of performing at the Fringe?
Most of us are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time this year so it is all very exciting and great for the CV for any cast member wishing to become a professional actor. There will hopefully be numerous networking opportunities with like-minded industry professionals as well.
What is the future for Old Hall Theatre Company and Armada The Musical?
Hopefully Armada will have legs after the Fringe. The next show for Old Hall Theatre will be a development of Austen, the biopic of famous author, Jane.
Armada The Musical will be performed from Monday 6 August - Saturday 11 August at 1.10pm at Paradise in Augustine's at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.